It happened that my local store had a few curious looking pre-packaged pieces of pork on sale. The skin was still attached and there was a layer of 1.5 cm of fat underneath. Looked absolutely yummy. I immediately thought of this delicious article (read also the comments; there are lots of good ideas there).
I'm not exactly sure, which part of the pig it was. The packaging said "uuniliha" (i.e. "oven meat"). This is apparently from somewhere around the blade shoulder. Anyway, it looked promising enough.
The piece of meat I got was a bit under 0.8 kg, including a small bone fragment. The fragment was thrown away and it was off to ...
(Unfortunately I was in such a hurry to get the process started that I didn't take any photographs or weigh the meat before starting. Sorry.)
The first step in making bacon is curing it to draw out moisture and to flavor it. I initially planned to keep it simple and to use just sugar and salt and no extra spices. However, the comments of the aforementioned article mentioned the salt, sugar and maple syrup as the best alternative, so I looked around if I had anything like it.
I didn't have any maple syrup, or regular (dark) syrup for that matter either. Instead I found a bottle of spruce shoot syrup I had bought last summer. There was just enough left to make a reasonable salt-sugar-syrup cure, so I threw that in, rubbed the pork with it and put it in the fridge in a plastic bag for a week.
During the week, a lot of moisture was drawn out. After three days some of the liquid had spilled out of the bag, so I had to drain it a bit. After a week there was 50 grams of liquid in the bag, so I'd estimate the total volume as 100 ml. Not bad.
The color and the smell reminded me of Black Forest (Schwarzwälder) Ham. Apparently those wacky Germans smoke with fir.
The meat was washed to get rid of the cure, and sent back to the fridge to dry out. I removed the skin at this point; I see no point in smoking the skin just to cut it out immediately afterwards.
The next day the meat had dried and had formed the pellicle, ie. the shiny stuff on the surface. It's apparently needed for the smoke to stick.
I live in an apartment, so using a full-blown smoker is out of the question. Instead, I use a smoker bag. It's a smoke-proof foil bag with wood chips hidden in the lining. There's plenty of room in the bag, so pork bellies would not be entirely out of the question.
My wood of choice is alder; the smoker bag manufacturer does have a hickory version for American markets, but that was not available here.
Smoking with the bag: Put the meat in the bag (I put it on a pan to collect the fat), seal properly, and put in a oven heated to 250 C to start the smoking process. After 10-15 minutes, the temperature can be lowered. Cook until done; a remote-read thermometer is your friend here. After cooking, wait for another 10-15 minutes before opening, or you'll smoke your entire kitchen.
The pig was on its side in the bag to maximize the surface available for smoking, fatty side up. Even though the bag was pretty thoroughly sealed, the apartment was quickly filled with smoky aromas. Make sure you ventilate properly.
The meat was perhaps slightly overcooked (reached 80 C after taken out of the oven), so it doesn't look like any bacon I've seen and is a bit on the tougher side. It's also bit too salty, but the smoke flavor was spot-on. The spruce flavor has all but disappeared.
I wouldn't claim it's the best bacon I've ever had, but it nevertheless vanished pretty quickly during the next few days as breakfast and movie snack. There's definitely room for improvement, though.
As it turns out, my fiancée's aunt has a pig farm. I have now
2-3 2.4 kg of locally produced pork bellies waiting in the freezer...